The first gay bar in this location was In Between. After In Between closed, the lease was taken over by a new owner (a gay couple), and in 2000 they opened Club Boom, which soon became known simply as Boom.
In summer 2003 a back patio was opened, complete with a fish tank stocked with large fish, and often used for cook-outs in the summer.
In July 2004, the size of the bar was doubled by expanding into the building immediately north, dubbed The "Room". The Room was in sharp contrast to the original space; the original Boom space had darker lighting with a traditional massive dark wood bar and walls, and a dance area toward the back. In contrast, going between Boom and Room is like going from one completely different business to another: Room had bright neon and halogen lighting, with a stainless steel and glass bar and lots of video screens, with games and pool tables toward the back. The two bars were connected both at the front with a closing glass door, and via doors to a shared patio in the back, allowing one to make a continuous "circuit" between the two spaces.
With the opening of The Room, that bar became the place to be for people's early cocktails on Friday and especially Saturday nights, prior to migrating to La Cage for dancing (the migration typically happening around 11:30-midnight). (Prior to this, Fluid had been the early-cocktail bar for the pre-La Cage crowd, and prior to that, the Triangle had held that position.)
Beginning in 2004, Club Boom also began to hold numerous parties, often with porn star strippers/ dancers, or sponsored by national businesses such as Instinct magazine, Gay.com, etc.
The best summary of the two bars was perhaps in an August 2004 feature article in 'OnMilwaukee.com' by Molly Snyder Edler, entitled 'The Room swings next to Club Boom':
David Panek is not afraid of change. Five years ago he opened Club Boom, 625 S. 2nd St., and planned to offer dancing on a small floor. However, when most of his clientele showed up only to dance for a few minutes before going to larger clubs, Panek simply moved in pool tables atop the floor and that was that. Now, the man who left a 17-year job at Quad Graphics to open a bar has made another major change. He opened another bar. After buying the building next door, Panek opened The Room, 623 S. 2nd St., and connected it to Boom with a swinging door.
Although very close in proximity to Boom, The Room has a very different feel. (Anyone else hearing the Paul Lekakis song "Boom, boom boom, let's go back to my room?") "We mixed old world charm with the new," says Panek, 42, who grew up in Hartford. The Room's tin ceiling appears vintage, but it is actually brand new as is the lit, glass-top bar. The cream city brick, however, is original.
Peter Looman's mural of Milwaukee is a colorful addition to The Room. The piece is 5-by-23-feet and features Milwaukee landmarks such as the art museum, Allen-Bradley clock, US Bank Building, City Hall and more. Loman is a graphic designer and muralist who says The Room's mural is his largest to date.
The new lounge offers more than 50 kinds of vodka as well as a nice variety of cognacs, champagnes, cocktails, highballs, beers and martinis. There are two flat-screen televisions for Packers season and beyond, and both bars have large, connected patios.
Whereas Boom is pretty much a gay club, The Room is a bit more ambiguous, largely because it appeals to a younger crowd, many of whom are less concerned with labels. "The younger generation doesn't care (who's gay and who's not). It's just not a big deal," says Panek. "Yes, Boom is gay bar, but The Room is more both. It brings in a new, open-minded crowd. All different types of people come here because they've heard good things, and then they just stay."
A June 2007 'Yelp' review was a bit more judgemental, and read: "This place is so hard to figure out. First, there's a totally old-school gay bar on one side. Small, dark windows, dart boards, pool table, wood paneling and older dudes. They have pretty strong drinks, friendly bartenders and a laid back crowd. Now - on the other side it's some ultra swank, trendy bar full of the pretty boys of Milwaukee. Fine if you're going to sip cosmos and call your best friend, "Girl" all night. That's not me. So - of course we stick to the original "Boom" (or Boom Boom Room as we like to call it) and skip "Club Boom" on the other side. I mean, if that other scene is your thing, you'll enjoy it (but it's usually 95 f-ing degrees in there.)"
The Boom/ Room bars began to decline in popularity starting around 2010, as gay bars in general began to be less popular. (With society's acceptance of gays/ the LGBT community, more and more patrons were comfortable gathering in "straight" bars, and "gay only" bars began losing their appeal to many of the younger men.) The owner began looking for a buyer, but ended up closing the bars late in 2014.
Credits: contents, design and arrangement by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: July-2020
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